Infrastructure people increasingly deal in software, not hardware. Software is eating the world.
Servers are “guests”. Orchestration is no longer a nice to have but required. Cloud Management software. Application and log monitoring tools. Even storage vendors spruik their cloud values more than their hardware “creds” these days.
In the past applications would run on one big old server in the corner. Every night someone would change a backup tape. Occasionally someone would have walked up to and power-cycled the server. Over time servers got cheaper and smaller, data centres consolidated and grew and servers got remote management cards then became virtualised. Infrastructure guys got more and more distant from the hardware. Then the basic operations jobs got outsourced. It’s no wonder we need software for everything. As storage and networks get commoditised – like servers were before them – the consumption of the profession by software will be complete.
The past was “big tin” with leading-edge hardware and unmatched reliability and power inside the box. The future is tiny disposable units of compute, storage and network that move across an ethereal fabric. These units have a life cycle of potentially minutes. The big ol’ dinosaurs will have been replaced by the most elemental of hardware life forms. The management of this ever growing and sprawling environment will be performed by increasing layers of software. There is no other way.
An organisation could be thought of as a series of tea strainers with infrastructure as the teacup.
Every issue unresolved or missed at higher levels gets dripped down to the next strainer and there’s always unexpected tea that gets through to the teacup. CPU and memory get thrown at a poorly sized application. Storage specialists fix your database problems. And “the network” fixes everything else.
Even with cheap hardware and ever increasing software layers, tea is still going to keep dripping through all those strainers (especially now that we’re dealing with software!).
The ongoing drama of aligning:
- A companies’ broader culture and proficiency
- A companies’ actual needs
- The always shifting technology landscape
The personality and skills required are those of people who have lived the “pain” and happily catch all the missed bits in their “teacup”. Infrastructure thinking has been crystallised by late night call-outs and unreasonable demands by those less technically savvy. That’s why we’re quite pessimistic and “failure-focused” compared to everyone else. (I do personally build loads of redundancy into my life!)
Infrastructure will always be there, hidden in these layers of software, process, methods and patterns that keep a companies’ core business going. It is just going to get a lot messier.
You see IT Infrastructure isn’t really about server “specs” and stuff. Sure that’s part of it, but mainly it’s about keeping the business going no matter what the technology looks like.